Trends in SSDI Benefit Receipt: Are More Recent Birth Cohorts Entering Sooner and Receiving Benefits Longer?

Working Paper 55
Publisher: Washington, DC: Mathematica Policy Research
Sep 27, 2017
Yonatan Ben-Shalom, David Stapleton, and Alex Bryce
We provide the first publicly available statistics on the extent to which recent successive birth cohorts enter Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and on cross-cohort trends in the average number of years of SSDI benefit receipt among all individuals of a given birth cohort. We find that the percentage of each birth cohort entering SSDI is increasing. Mean years of benefit receipt among all individuals in the birth cohort has grown even more rapidly, due to the combined effects of entry at younger ages and lower mortality after entry. Our findings account for immigration, an important factor that is often ignored in discussions about growth in the SSDI rolls. The trends we document impose substantial pressure on the SSDI and Medicare trust funds, reinforcing the urgency of testing and adopting policies that will reduce avoidable labor force exit and SSDI entry by workers who experience work-threatening medical problems.